Minister cannot be faulted on thriftiness.

15th August 2008 at 01:00

Assembly members with education remits claimed almost Pounds 40,000 in expenses for their second homes and hotel bills in Cardiff during 2007-8, it has been revealed.

But the costs, only released by the Assembly government following Freedom of Information requests, show Wales's education minister Jane Hutt did not claim a single penny.

Ms Hutt lives about eight miles outside Cardiff in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan. But she is still entitled to claim a maximum of Pounds 3,700 for overnight stays and meals in the Welsh capital.

There has been severe criticism this week of the expense claims made by some AMs, including the amount spent on new sofas, Sky TV and second-home bathrooms.

The Tories released their expense claims for the tax year a week earlier. They show Alun Cairns, the former shadow education minister, claimed the full Pounds 12,500 allowed under the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) for a second home in Cardiff Bay - despite living a 45-minute drive away in Ewenny, near Bridgend.

Mr Cairns resigned from the post this summer after he made offensive comments about Italian footballers on Radio Cymru's Dau O'r Bae programme. His successor Andrew Davies, AM for South Wales Central, who lives in the Vale of Glamorgan, claimed Pounds 454.50 for hotels and meals in his former post of shadow transport minister.

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Kirsty Williams, who lives in Brecon, also claimed Pounds 11,019.24 to subsidise a second home in the capital. Deputy minister for skills, John Griffiths, claimed Pounds 676.75 for hotel stays and meals. Janet Ryder, who lives in Rhuthun, North Wales, claimed Pounds 12,479.67, including a Pounds 600 sofa.

Under ACA rules, AMs who live outside Caerphilly, Cardiff, Penarth, Newport, Pontypridd and the Vale of Glamorgan can claim up to Pounds 12,500 for the cost of any overnight stay away from home, or for the provision of a second home in Cardiff. This includes furniture, mortgage interest and rent.

AMs who live within these constituencies can claim up to Pounds 3,700 for overnight stays.

Eight AMs claimed the full Pounds 12,500, while 21 others claimed more than Pounds 10,000 each. The bill for the 60 Welsh AMs was more than Pounds 400,000.

Conservative leader Nick Bourne claimed almost Pounds 1,500 for "essential work" to his bathroom in his second home. Labour's Lesley Griffiths spent more than Pounds 2,000 on a sofa, and Plaid's Rhodri Glyn Thomas paid Pounds 1,500 for a three-piece suite.

AMs voted to increase the ACA in April. Those living outside the designated region near Cardiff can now claim up to Pounds 13,000, while those within it can claim Pounds 4,100. A panel will review pay and expenses following criticism of an 8.3 per cent pay rise, awarded in March.

Corin Taylor, of The Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "With families struggling, politicians should not be splashing out on second homes."

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